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Let’s make a PCB using an online service for professional results!



OVERVIEW


We’ve all been there…  We prototype a project on a breadboard and everything seems to be working.


Ok so now what?  Well we probably would like to take that project from a breadboard to something more permanent.

PROTO BOARDS



You make all the connections by hand, which is very time consuming and let’s face it, doesn’t look that great.


Proto Boards

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ETCHING



Another option is to use dangerous chemicals to etch a copper board.  Aside from being messy, the results are dependent on many factors: time, temperature of the solution etc…


Etching Supplies

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CNC MILLING



One more option, if you have the tools, is to use a CNC machine to trace a copper board with your PCB design.


If you do a lot of prototyping and need results fast, this is a good option and can produce great results, but the cost of the machine, cutting bits needed and time spent, might not be the best way if you’re not using it regularly.


CNC Machine

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CNC MILLING















The last option I can think of, is having your PCB professionally made by a company.


If you are not in a hurry…


Really the only drawback of using a service, is that you will have to wait a couple of days or weeks (depending on the shipping options) but you will get a lot more.


Unlike the already mentioned methods above, using a professional service will give you things you can’t get otherwise (not easily anyways): Like solder mask, silk printing, through hole plating…


If you want your PCB in a hurry you can probably pay for fast shipping but it will cost more of course.


So, following our last tutorial, “creating a Button Box”, we will use an online service: https://EasyEDA.com to design a PCB for our Button Box project.


EasyEDA uses an online interface so we don’t need to install anything on our PC or MAC, and best of all it’s free.


One great thing about using EasyEDA is that you can find and use parts created by it’s community to create your PCB.


So if you want an obscure part to use on your PCB, chances are that someone has already created it.


When you are done and satisfied with your PCB design, you can go ahead and order it directly from that same online interface.

PCB LAYOUT



Here’s the PCB that was designed using EasyEDA online interface.


Since this is a 2 layer PCB, the red lines represent the top layer traces and the purple lines are the bottom traces.


The Purple line is the board outline.


Everything in Yellow represent the top silk printed layer.


The parts for the Cherry MX, CD4021BE and the DigiSpark were all found by searching the library of users contributed parts.


This is what makes EasyEDA stand out from other services.

THE PROCESS

The learning curve of using EasyEDA to create PCB is fairly low depending on the complexity of your project of course.


You can design a PCB from a traditional schematic view and then move on to a PCB layout view based on it.


For a simple project like ours, I went right away to designing the PCB without creating a schematic first.


This in my mind, makes it a lot easier to get started since you are connecting the component exactly like they were connected on your breadboard.


You just drag from one connection to another without worrying about the PCB traces and then use the “AutoRouter” feature to let EasyEDA create and route the PCB traces for you.  Of course once that is done, you can go in and make changes if you want.


Once completed, all you have to do is click on the “Manufacture” link in the interface and you can go ahead and order your PCB directly from EasyEDA based on your design.


Please watch the Tutorial video for more information and walk trough of the process.

TUTORIAL VIDEO


CONCLUSION


While we wait to receive the PCB we ordered:

  • Using EasyEDA.com service removes a lot of the fear of making your own PCB

  • Their online interface is easy to learn and can be accessed from anywhere

  • The users contributed parts is a major selling point

  • Prices are low even for small quantities

  • Turn around time is fast, but low price shipping is quite slow, so you’ll have to pay more to get your PCB faster.

Of course this being an online interface, it’s not as complete as an installed software, it does take some time getting use to, but for small projects I feel it’s not too bad.


In our next tutorial I will give you a more complete impression including, quality of the boards received, total time for delivery, etc…

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